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Jester's Response to SACS' Probation Stirs Public Reaction

Here home blog that comments on SACS findings shows Jester was elemental in uncovering some of the district's financial mismanagment since she came to the board two years ago.

Nancy Jester has come out swinging in her latest blog to constituents, claiming that the findings of a board oversight body unearthed systemic financial misdeeds in the district she says she herself uncovered months before the Southern Association Colleges and Schools put the distrct on probation.

Jester claims in her blog posting she was met with "stonewalling and deception" when she asked staff about financial miscues she said became apparent in her personally accounting how much the district was spending in utilities, legal fees and other items.

Jester noted the irony that the same SACS report that relied heavily on her own findings, which she downplayed as being produced by a "a mom with a caluclator," - though Jester is a trained professional in financial management -  could lead to her removal from the board.

Gov. Nathan Deal under new legislation, has the power to remove all members of the DeKalb Schools board because of it's recent desigination of probation. That could happen in the next month, and would have to be a clean sweep - all board members would be removed if Deal decides to take that route.

Current members could then reapply for a position on the board without any guaratees of appointment. Jester is serving her freshman term and is in the second year of that tenure.

Part of her website, entitled, "What's Up With That" explains her psoiton on the matter, noting and linking to many reports she produced that showed financial mismanagement that align closely with some of the findings of SACS.

Jester claims she was straight up lied to by district staff about why the utility costs for the district consistently ran over budget.

"I was publically misled by administration officials who stated at board meetings that our budgeting issues with electricity (one of the many areas I cited as problematic) were due to (1) unseasonably hot/cold summers/winters and (2) increases in electricity rates.  These statements were demonstrably false."

The reaction to the claims of Jester, who is Dunwoody' representative on the board, has been fast, swift and comprehensive. The blog post on late Dec. 26 has proudced 52 comments as of this posting.

What do you think? Add your thoughts to Jester's assertions.

A poster with the handle "Tucker Guy" said he has experienced similar obfuscation by the school district that pointed to fear among school district employees in performing their duties.

"I recently sent an email to a high ranking “Central Palace” employee pointing out some of the flaws in the proposed organization. It was apparently passed to the area superintendent who sent it to my child’s principal. She was instructed to call me and get me to stop asking questions which made the school system look bad.

I laughed at her, which upset her to no end. She then begged me to stop so she wouldn’t get into trouble. When I asked how my emails would get her into trouble she said something to the effect of “anything can get anyone into trouble these days.”

"Jeff' advocated for a clean sweep of the board and top admnistrators to get the board on the right track - despite the fact he said Jester was a true reformer on the board.

The solution here is the removal of the board and an unqualified Superintendent.

Appoint a temporary board, have the DA, Attny Gen and Feds launch investigations into the fiscal and HR practices of the system and let the chips fall where they may.Crawford Lewis could have some new cell mates.
@ Nancy, your efforts and frustration are appreciated; you were willing to ask questions when others were not, but the level of corruption that kept you in the dark requires decisive action. Keep doing the right thing.

Editor's Note: Below is a list of comments from Jester's blogs. They are printed in the entrierty and unedited.

  1. Rae Anne says on December 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I appreciate your update. You are the only BOE member that I care to see stay. I hope you aren’t sacrificed along with the others. Thanks for your integrity.

  2. John Oselette says on December 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Give ‘em hell Nancy!

  3. JoAnn Russler says on December 26, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you Nancy. I’m reminded of the old saying “No good deed goes unpunished.” I know firsthand the frustrations from not getting ANYONE in authority to investigate matters suggesting corruption and/or incompetence. Thank you for hanging in there. You will continue to have my family’s full support. By the way, have you eve figured out why the AJC has never really been motivated to do serious investigative journalism regarding DCSS? There is nothing new in the SACS report that several of us DCSS taxpayer/parents haven’t provided to both the AJC AND SACS for years…….

  4. Tucker Guy says on December 26, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you for being a mom with a calculator. For too long Dekalb County Schools have been led by people who do not feel they should be held accountable for their actions, in-actions and malfeasance.

    I had noticed the parts of the report that seemed aimed at you. If not Board of Education members, who can ask school officials about discrepancies and inaccuracies in the budget? I would be interested in SACS’ answer to that.

  5. Rae Anne says on December 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    @TuckerGuy Yes, the Board should just let Administrators do their job and not question them! In what world does that make sense?

  6. Tucker Guy says on December 26, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Lord knows parents are not allowed to question them.

    I recently sent an email to a high ranking “Central Palace” employee pointing out some of the flaws in the proposed organization. It was apparently passed to the area superintendent who sent it to my child’s principal. She was instructed to call me and get me to stop asking questions which made the school system look bad.

    I laughed at her, which upset her to no end. She then begged me to stop so she wouldn’t get into trouble. When I asked how my emails would get her into trouble she said something to the effect of “anything can get anyone into trouble these days.”

  7. Rae Anne says on December 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    @TuckerGuy Such a shame! Our principals need to be empowered to make the decisions that are right for their schools. How sad that they feel so threatened by central office personnel that are sucking up all the school tax dollars!

  8. Ryan L. Mura says on December 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Nancy,
    As a forty plus year resident and taxpayer in Dekalb County, whose three children attended our public schools, let me congratulate you on your work as a School Board member. I must say that, as a former management executive, I cannot understand how the apparent level of mismanagement, corruption, etc. has been allowed to continue, and get worse each year. As far as SACS is concerned, how bad must it become before they remove our accreditation? Also, where is the State Board of Education in this matter?
    At this past Saturday breakfast meeting I made the statement ( at least half seriously) that the solution to our problem may be to fire the Board for two or three years and let the Superintendent run the whole thing.
    Again, thanks for your excellent work and please “keep on keeping on”.
    Ryan L. Mura

  9. Bruce S. Curtiss says on December 26, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Way to go, Nancy! Please do not back down. The gravy train needs to grind to a halt and the crooks need to be brought to justice. It is obvious that DeKalb schools are infested with the equivalent of hundreds of cockroaches.

  10. Rae Anne says on December 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    That might work theoretically…but I believe the Superintendent was selected because she would do what the Board wanted her to do. Apparently she has a bad record in her former school system and a resume full of grammatical errors.

  11. Rae Anne says on December 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    @Bruce Ewwww….nasty!

  12. Beverly Fraud says on December 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    A board member with integrity. Who knew? Perhaps Markie Mark can appear before the board, so that he can be asked to comment on these issues, which are imminently fair and legitimate?

    Y’all know Markie Mark, right? The guy who was silent when Beverly Hall perpetrated the largest cheating scandal in United States educational history, but only broke his silence over a 5-4 vote to remove the board chair who ACTIVELY conspired with Beverly Hall to cover up evidence of cheating?

    No, not to support the vote, but to work hand in hand with Kasim Reed to strong arm the board to REVERSE the vote.

    Not that the DCSS isn’t totally FUBAR, but don’t be so quick to judge Markie Mark as a white knight in shining armor.

  13. Monise says on December 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    And sadly, the previous board ran off a superintendent who showed some concern for learning and teaching conditions. This is very sad and I can understand your frustrations.

  14. Jeff says on December 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    @ Ryan, The solution here is the removal of the board and an unqualified Superintendent. Appoint a temporary board, have the DA, Attny Gen and Feds launch investigations into the fiscal and HR practices of the system and let the chips fall where they may. Crawford Lewis could have some new cell mates.
    @ Nancy, your efforts and frustration are appreciated; you were willing to ask questions when others were not, but the level of corruption that kept you in the dark requires decisive action. Keep doing the right thing.

  15. Stephen Lykins says on December 27, 2012 at 7:39 am

    It sounds to me like the solution may not be to replace all the board members (some definitely but not necessarily all) but rather to fire and replace the entire upper level of DCSS administration!

  16. Tim McGaughey says on December 27, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Nancy:

    Keep up your great work. Criticisms of “the Board” do not include you. People clearly know you are shedding light on the problems caused by others.

  17. Tracy Adler says on December 27, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Thank you for the update, Nancy. Your integrity and commitment to our children’s education are very much appreciated!

  18. DeKalb Inside Out says on December 27, 2012 at 9:26 am

    What are our options??
    Given:
    1. Only the Board of Education can hire/fire a Superintendent.
    2. Only the Superintendent can hire/fire their executive staff.
    3. Every board seat is up for election in 2 years, so any appointed BOEs will only be there for 2 years.

    The board is irrelevant if the powers that be can strong arm the current board into hiring a respectable Superintendent. Thought: Since Ms Jester is the only trustworthy person up there, why doesn’t somebody make her the Superintendent??

  19. DeKalb Teacher says on December 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Rae Anne
    Dr Atkinson had a bad record at Lorain City Schools? That’s an understatement!!

    From the Morning Journal: LORAIN — The state will take over Lorain City Schools [in 2012] when the district, which has a $12 million deficit, goes into fiscal emergency, according to school Treasurer Dale Webber.

  20. mom that came to her senses says on December 27, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Thank you for your work Nancy, you are a lot more than “just a mom with a calculator”.

    I’d have given up long ago. As a matter of fact, I have. I can’t be a bystander and tell my kids as I’ve heard so many parents say: “oh, it’s bad, but what can you do, but to endure it”. That would make me an accomplice, or an enabler. I applaud you Nancy, for calmly and rationally trying to change things for the ones who are sticking with it.

    There is better out there, starting with less or no corruption and ending with systems that actually care about educating children. I grew up with one so I know it exists, but apparently not in DeKalb public school system. DeKalb is, from what I can tell, going backwards since 40 years ago. The teachers and kids are frustrated and the rest is an embarrassing mess.

  21. DeKalb Inside Out says on December 27, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Bruce
    The Superintendent can be fired at will by the board. There would need to be pressure from a “higher power” like they did at Atlanta Public Schools.

  22. Nancy Jester Responds to DeKalb Schools’ Probation says on December 27, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    [...] Nancy Jester, in a blog post on Wednesday night, noted her whistleblower items could help in her ouster from the board, if Gov. [...]

  23. Leslie says on December 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    THANKS Nancy! Keep up the great work!!!

  24. Crash says on December 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Bruce,
    I’d like to help to organize to get Nancy in as the Super. We’d be lucky if she’ll take the job. We need someone local. All of these out of town superintendents have no idea what they’re getting into.

  25. DeKalb Inside Out says on December 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Crash and Bruce
    Let’s start a grass roots movement. I’ll put together a petition.

  26. A friend says on December 27, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    No. I think even Nancy would agree that we need someone experienced at turning something around. Someone who has a proven track record of success. What Nancy needs are enough board members who feel the same. Keep in mind that Atkinson has a contract and if the Board breaks it, she gets a huge payout.
    Starting a petition will just make it more difficult for Nancy to get anything accomplished.

  27. DeKalb Inside Out says on December 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Nancy Jester for DeKalb Superintendent
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nancy-jester-for-dekalb-superintendent/

    We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

  28. A friend says on December 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Crash
    You are wrong about local. We need someone with a proven track record. No one within DeKalb fits that bill. For those of you who live in Marshalll Orson, Marvin Johnson or Jim McMahan’s districts, you need to be putting your energy into encouraging them to work with Nancy. Right now, I am not confident that will happen. And the side that currently has three votes could slip to two. It is a problem.

  29. Tucker Guy says on December 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    I don’t know Nancy and don’t know if she would be interested in the position of superintendent.

    Let us be more reasonable and start a petition to get her elected as the chairperson of the board. She would then be able to set the agenda for the meetings. Her position as chairperson would get media to pay attention to the things she is saying which is what we all want. The media will drive the changes which need to happen in DCSD.

  30. Jeff says on December 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    No offense to Nancy, but we need management experience with large governmental organizations and a strong ethical background to chair the board (if we need a board which I just am not sure is productive) How much money would we save by eliminating the board and rolling the school system under the county as a department with dedicated funding?

  31. Stephen Lykins says on December 28, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Jeff – I don’t know about anyone else on here but I do NOT want Burrell Ellis in charge of our schools! Eliminating the board is also not a good idea – they are accountable to us, the voters while the elimination of them would leave the corrupt administrators free reign with NO accountability to the voters.

  32. You can read the rest of the response to Jester' blogs here. Jester has also said she would continue to update consituents in Dunwoody on the ongoing process with the school board's probabtion.
Betsy Parks January 09, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Have YOUR voice heard by GA BOE! Sign the petition to remove the DEKalb BOE before 2pm on Sunday , January 13, 2013. Supporters after the deadline will be on an addendum and Gov Deals petition. https://www.change.org/petitions/governor-nathan-deal-and-georgia-state-board-of-education-review-sacs-findings-if-accurate-replace-the-dekalb-county-school-board

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